Read The Making of the President 1960 by Theodore H. White Online


What is a presidential election? "The most awesome transfer of power in the world—, the power to marshal & mobilize, the power to send men to kill or be killed, the power to tax & destroy, the power to create & the responsibility to do so, the power to guide & the responsibility to heal —all committed into the hands of one man." These words, written by TheoWhat is a presidential election? "The most awesome transfer of power in the world—, the power to marshal & mobilize, the power to send men to kill or be killed, the power to tax & destroy, the power to create & the responsibility to do so, the power to guide & the responsibility to heal —all committed into the hands of one man." These words, written by Theodore H. White in the opening chapter of this book, are as true today as when they were written over a half-century ago. His unprecedented examination of crucial campaign, in which the young, charismatic John F. Kennedy squared off against the seasoned vice president, Richard M. Nixon, is both a fascinating historical document & a compelling narrative of character & consequence. The reporter's detailed appreciation of the instinct & experience that shape the political process is a revelation in our current age of sound bites, relentlessly chattering punditry & the all-consuming influence of tv, —an influence 1st felt in the Kennedy-Nixon debates that proved to be a critical factor in the 1960 election. Following seven candidates from the earliest stirrings of aspiration thru the rigors of the primaries, the drama of the conventions & the grueling campaigning that culminated in one of the closest electoral contests in history, White provides a valuable education in the ways & means of our political life. The Making of the President 1960 is an extraordinary document, a celebration of the genius of American democracy & an anatomy of the ambition, cunning & courage it demands from those who seek its highest office. For what it can teach us about the forces that determine the destiny of presidential candidates, it remains required reading today. White was born in Boston in 1915. After Harvard graduation, he was recruited by John Hersey to cover E. Asia for Time, becoming chief of its China Bureau in '45. This experience inspired his 1st book, Thunder Out of China (written with Annalee Jacoby). In '48 he went to live in Europe. His experience as a European correspondent led to Fire in the Ashes, published in '53. That same year he returned to the USA to work as national correspondent for The Reporter, then for Collier's. After its collapse in '56, he completed two novels, The Mountain Road & The View from the Fortieth Floor, in the next four years. At the time Collier's closed, he was planning a story on "The Making of the President 1956" for the magazine. He revived the idea in the next election year, resulting in his most famous book, The Making of the President 1960, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction in 1962. Having found his vocation as our "storyteller of elections," he went on to produce three more Making of the President volumes, covering 1964, 1968 & 1972 campaigns. Subsequently, he was author of Breach of Faith: The Fall of Richard Nixon; In Search of History: A Personal Adventure; & America in Search of Itself: The Making of the President 1956-80. He died in 5/86....

Title : The Making of the President 1960
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ISBN : 9780451618740
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 287 Pages
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The Making of the President 1960 Reviews

  • Erik Graff
    2019-11-15 21:14

    During the televised presidential debates Father let me stay up to watch. His television viewing, his subscriptions and his taking me along to attend village council meetings made me interested in politics at an early age. Thus, when it was announced that Jack Kennedy would be speaking one morning at the Meadowdale Shopping Center in Kane County, I didn't go to school. Instead, I walked over to where the crowd, a big one, was milling.Being small, it was easy to slip among the legs of the grownups to the back of the hastily constructed stage in front of the red-white-and-blue Meadowdale watertower. It was even easy to get up the stage. Everyone must have figured I was with some parent who belonged there.Kennedy was talking as I got to his dark suited right leg and was discerned by one of the equally well-dressed Secret Service men. A query made it clear I'd no business there, so he picked me up and handed me over the pine railing to one of his fellows on the pavement, telling me to go back to my parents.I headed back through the crowd, excited by having been on stage, but increasingly nervous about what might now happen at school, until there, on the fringes, in her customary black with a matching, sequinned sash announcing KENNEDY I saw Miss Shriver, our beloved third grade teacher, as she, apparently, was seeing me. Saying "I won't tell if you won't tell", the fellow-truant bade me to get to class. God knows how the substitute handled it, but no punishment was forthcoming.Months later, in 1962, I was in Norway. Mom, my little brother and I had been there for months, being joined in August by Father. The Making of the President 1960 had been recently published and Dad had brought along a paperback copy sealed by him in green plastic for its protection. There's a photograph of me with the book in hand with a view of snowy mountains through the window in the background.I read the book first then, that summer, and was delighted--more than delighted--that the rally in Meadowdale was given a line's mention in the text. Then, after The Making...1964 came out, I read it again, followed, later, by Making...1968 and 1972. All portray an insider's view of the the two primary campaigns by an experienced political reporter and all are worth reading, but The Making of the President 1960 is best because I am in it...sort of.

  • Steve
    2019-11-22 02:06

    This book probably deserves another star, but the last hundred pages were a real slog. White writes beautifully, but it's hard not to notice his major Man Crush on JFK. He's new, he's exciting, he dresses well, etc. It's no wonder that Jackie approached White over the whole "Camelot" thing, because that's exactly what you see between the lines. Surprisingly, this doesn't burden the book, since White's treatment of Nixon is sympathetic. Probably the most sympathetic I've read. And since the book was a product of the immediate campaign, I have no idea whether White knew of the darker stuff, like JFK bag men buying votes in West Virginia, But you do get the sense that White is something of a romantic, and that this particular political duel is noble stuff. More importantly, White gives a great account of the what the country was like in 1960, while signaling, accurately, the great changes ahead. One can't help but feel a bit of sadness over all of this enthusiasm, knowing what will be coming for JFK, and later, the country.

  • Book Concierge
    2019-11-24 18:52

    Subtitle: A Narrative History of American Politics in Action.About a year before the November 1960 election, Theodore H White began studying the likely candidates. He focused on a handful of men with aspirations and/or apparent qualifications: Humphrey, Kennedy, Stevenson, Johnson, Nixon, Rockefeller. He travelled from state to state reporting on the primaries or state caucuses / conventions. (In that era, there were only sixteen states that held primaries!) He attended the Democratic and Republican national conventions. And he closely followed the candidates as they campaigned for the presidency. I was fascinated to learn some of this history, and the first-hand look at the “political machines” that produced these two candidates, and ultimately President John F Kennedy. I also found this a surprisingly nostalgic book … It was published in 1961, shortly after Kennedy’s inauguration, so there is no hint of what is to come in November 1963. It’s somewhat dated – the process is different more than half a century later. And yet, there is something timeless about this story. Serious issues of race, the economy, potential for nuclear war, etc still plague our country. Good men and women still struggle to find solutions. My face-to-face book club had a fascinating and spirited discussion of this work.

  • Aaron Million
    2019-11-23 22:02

    This is the first book (of an eventual four) that White wrote to chronicle a presidential election. This is the only one of the four to have won any award (Pulitzer Prize). By the time White wrote this book, he was already a well-known and respected journalist. But the success of The Making of the President series is now what he is most remembered for. White's strength here is his innate ability to paint such vivid pictures of the personalities and locations involved. His chapters describing the Democratic Convention in Los Angeles, and then the first (critical) TV debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, are enthralling and detailed. Take, for example, his description (PP. 288-289) of Vice President Nixon: "The Vice-President, by contrast, was tense, almost frightened, at turns glowering and, occasionally, haggard-looking to the point of sickness." And this, from page 172: "History is always best written generations after the event, when cloud, fact and memory have all fused into what can be accepted as truth, whether it be so or not." That may be one of the most accurate lines I have ever read anywhere. This type of quality writing is hard to find now (think McCullough, Chernow, or Caro - these guys stand out because of their prodigious research, how well they tell a story, and their superior writing abilities). Yet, despite the wonderful writing, this book is flawed in several respects. First and most importantly, White is obviously enchanted by Kennedy. His coverage of the Kennedy side of the campaign is close to total worship: he writes on and on about the great "Kennedy machine" and the "brain trust" and how Kennedy always seemed to anticipate what was going to come next. While he does, from time to time, make mention of the Kennedy staffers' arrogance, he does not seem to see it as a fault; he views it more as a by-product of how successful they were. White does not talk about Kennedy's health problems stemming from Addison's disease (indeed, he frequently mentions Kennedy's physical actions like running across a lawn or bounding up steps). Nor does he ever go anywhere near the topic of Kennedy's womanizing. While this was a different time, and I have no doubt that these things were not widely known then, I have a difficult time believing that White - with all of his sources and private access - was ignorant of these two issues. Neglecting to report something like that now would not pass muster. Thus Kennedy is the main character in the book, and even when White is writing about the Republicans, I got the feeling that he couldn't wait to get to the next chapter to go back to writing about Kennedy. In fact, of the book's first 179 pages, only 19 are devoted to the Republicans. Also given short shrift are Hubert Humphrey (he appears in the early chapter about the Wisconsin and West Virginia primaries, then we never hear of him again) and Lyndon Johnson. In fact, White completely ignores Johnson after the Democratic Convention. Johnson played a crucial role for Kennedy in helping to secure his native Texas in the election, yet White never writes about what Johnson did or how he did it. I was hoping for more in this area. White includes (as he does in the other three books) a chapter about America at that time. While I understand why he did this, I quickly became bogged down in the endless statistics that White pours onto the pages. Fact and figure followed by many more figures get jumbled together. Additionally, White's final chapter is a rather dry one where he rambles on about what the presidency has now become. It didn't really seem to fit the book. Instead, I would have preferred to have seen a concluding chapter about the transition from Dwight Eisenhower to Kennedy. White never mentioned that at all. A glaring omission. Finally, his treatment of Nixon left me wishing for a lot more. As I mentioned previously, the book focused much more on Kennedy, and this is at Nixon's expense more than anyone else. He may have had good reason for this: his footnote on pp. 299-300 eerily foreshadows Nixon's behavior in the White House later on; he talks of Nixon deliberately being inaccessible and unwilling to meet with him or any member of the press privately. In fact, he writes that Nixon viewed the press as a collective enemy and that early on he had decided to ignore them all and treat them with disdain. So, given that, it is probably not surprising that Nixon gets short-shrift here; Nixon caused that himself. One final, telling comment by White about Nixon: on page 317, one of Nixon's inner circle (who themselves were often cut off from the candidate) said "Dick didn't lose this election. Dick blew this election."Grade: C+

  • Harley
    2019-11-29 22:19

    The Making of The President 1960 earned the author, Theodore H. White, a Pulitzer Prize in 1962. In the book, White, a journalist, follows the candidates from the moment they made the decision to enter the race for the Presidency until Kennedy was elected.In the 1970’s I had White’s The Making of the President 1968, the third of 4 books in the series. I was impressed with book when I read so decided with being on the doorstep of the 1916 election that I would read the original book in the series.The Making of the President 1960 is as relevant and important today as it was in 1960. White has the reporter’s knack of capturing the detail that makes the story exciting even 55 years after the event. Many of the issues that he identifies in the 1960 campaign are still relevant today. He also has a strong sense of history and is able to put the events of the time in historical context.White touches on the fact that the peaceful transfer of power from one person to the next is unusual in the annals of history. White writes:“Heroes and philosophers, brave men and vile, have since Rome and Athens tried to make this manner of transfer of power work effectively; no people have succeeded at it better, or over a longer period of time, than the Americans.”The Democrats seeking the nomination of their party in 1960 included Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, Senator Stuart Symington of Missouri, Senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas, former Illinois governor Adlai Stevenson II and Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts. The Republicans seeking the nomination of their party in 1960 were Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York and Vice-President Richard M. Nixon. White is excellent at summing up a situation in a very simple image. After Humphrey had lost the primary in West Virginia that ended his campaign, White writes: “In the morning, when Humbert Humphrey woke, the Presidential image had evaporated. Outside the Ruffner Hotel his parked bus had overnight been given a ticket for illegal parking.”Lyndon Johnson, like some politicians today, was seen as being too close to the workings of Washington. Johnson’s weakness was that he believed that the Senate was America and that he was the Senate. In a very relevant passage, White writes: “Long service in Washington at the court of power decisions causes men to forget that power rises ultimately from beyond the Potomac.”Here is one of White’s descriptions of Kennedy: “He had mastered politics on so many different levels that no other contemporary American could match him. He had nursed ward politics with his mother’s milk; heard it from his grandfathers, politicians both, in boyhood; seen it practiced from his father’s embassy in London at the supreme level of world events in 1939, as war and peace hung in the balance.”White fills his book with telling details. He writes: “At almost any moment of afternoon and evening on the road, soup is the favorite Kennedy dish — almost any kind of soup: chicken soup, tomato soup, bean soup and his favorite New England clam chowder.”White reviews in detail the impact of the changing demographics on the politics of the time. Between 1950 and 1960, the population of the country grew by 18%. Forty-one million Americans were born during the period and 16 million died. Two-thirds of the growth had occurred in the suburbs.White also discusses immigration which statistically began being counted in 1819 as required by Congress. White writes, “in 1820 America held 9,638,000 people, of whom almost 20 per cent were Negroes; and the rest are considered to have been the parent ‘colonial stock’ of America — an overwhelmingly British stock, spiced lightly with adventurers from all northern Europe.”Over 40 million immigrants entered the country between 1820 and 1960. The Irish came first. Between 1847 and 1854, over one million Irish entered the country. Almost 900 thousand Germans came between 1850 and 1857 and they kept coming in waves. By 1960 people with German heritage had become the second largest component of the American population. The Scandinavians arrived in the late 1800s. In the early part of the 20th century, more than 3 million Italians arrived. White also writes about the issue of religion. He reminds us that many of the early settlers came to escape the religious wars of Europe. The memories of how they were punished in Europe for their religious beliefs led to the decision that government had no right to make inquiry into the faith of its citizens and that the state should not have any connection to religion. People were free to worship as they pleased without guidance from the government.I think every American would benefit from the reading and rereading of this book as we enter another election year. White is a great storyteller who helps us understand how politics work and how Presidents are elected to serve the people.

  • Frank Stein
    2019-11-17 23:57

    I really wish I could recommend this book. First of all, it's everywhere lauded as a classic; the first real book on an American presidential campaign, the one every journalist from Joe McGinniss to Heilemann and Halperin tries to replicate. It also won the Pulitzer, though of course Joe Kennedy had strong-armed the committee into giving his son the prize just three years early, so I don't doubt that he would do the same for an adulatory book about him in 1961.And that's probably the largest problem with this book. Throughout Kennedy is lionized up as a preternatural genius and the consummate politician of the century. He can do no wrong. By contrast, Nixon and the Republicans are always craven, foolish, callow and a host of other unsavory adjectives. Yet White still attempts a pretense of false objectivity, even when describing Kennedy trying to "get his message" to the American people and the Republicans making a "final assault on the American mind." The sheer strain of reading White pretending to favor both sides against his inclinations is wearying. Not that there's no truth in his descriptions of the two campaigns. Kennedy's, under Kenneth O'Donnell and Lawrence O'Brien, was accompanied by a host of pollsters (Lou Harris), political bosses (Joseph Bailey of Connecticut) and Harvard intellectuals (Archibald Cox), who ran a powerful and tireless campaign, one where "O'Brien's Manual" of area commanders, volunteer leaders, and meticulous tasks for every level, became their Bible. Nixon's managers, on the other hand, concocted a weird theory of "pacing," that dictated their candidate create a "rhythm" of fast and slow weeks for his campaign. Nixon also demanded a 50 state tour, when most of these states were not necessary for his victory. This further hampered him after an infected knee required him to sit out two of the most frantic last weeks. The urge to catch up left him haggard and exhausted.Yet, despite all the intimations of inevitability that hung over Kennedy's efforts, he won by barely 100,000 votes: 1/10 of 1%. As White points out 7,000 votes in Illinois and 25,000 in Texas would have switched the result, and Mayor Daley in the first and Lyndon Johnson in the second were widely reputed to have pushed the limits of legitimacy in getting those votes. So the campaigns could not have been all that different in their results. What's remarkable too is how similar, I almost said identical, the two candidates platforms were: both fiercely anti-Communist and obsessed with foreign affairs, relatively unconcerned with domestic policy, and relative moderates on civil rights and economic programs. What's also surprising on reading this is how much of the 1960 campaign has already gone down in history: the first, for Nixon almost fatal, TV debate, with his running "Lazy Shave" makeup; the U-2 plane shot down over Russia in the midst of the conventions; Kennedy's call to MLK Jr. in his Birmingham jail. White's account adds little to these. The best parts of the book are his interviews with and descriptions of some of the forgotten lights of American politics in the 1950s, like Senator Stuart Symington of Minnesota or the ubiquitous Adlai Stevenson, and bigger ones like Nelson Rockefeller and Hubert Humphrey. But most of the book veers between sycophantic and excessively metaphysical. There are better campaign books out there.

  • Bob
    2019-12-15 21:06

    This is THE classic campaign history of the Kennedy-Nixon contest of 1960 (the first presidential election I remember--I saw John Kennedy in a motorcade that passed through my hometown). While some things about presidential campaigns have changed, one thing that White portrays well is the grueling character of a national political campaign beginning with primaries through a November general election. If anything, it is even more grueling today. White comments how media organization would rotate reporters on and off of campaigns to give them rest--no such luxury for the candidates, who were utterly exhausted by Election Day.Along the way, White explores the contrasting styles of Nixon and Kennedy (secretive and alone versus thriving on and extended network of the best and brightest of family and Harvard connections). White sees that one of the critical decisions that may have determined the election was the decision of Nixon to campaign in all 50 states, even after being laid up with a knee injury, versus Kennedy's decision to focus on key, large electoral vote states, most of which he ended up carrying. And we see what a "near run thing" this election was--small voting differences in a few states and Nixon would have been president in 1960.White probably gives us one of the earliest versions of the process by which LBJ ended up Kennedy's running mate. He provides an extensive discussion of the TV debates and their role in the election. He explores the demographics of the vote and the opening this election signaled to the republicans to gain ground in the South. And he explores the issue of John Kennedy's Catholicism and how Kennedy addressed this (including a transcript of Kennedy's address to the Houston Ministerial Association).What stands out to me through all this is the analysis by White of the character of two men, how that shaped their campaigns, and I think, was significant for Kennedy's victory in the end. I know much has been written about this campaign since White wrote, but White, writing so close to the event, evokes the times and the feel of this campaign.

  • June
    2019-11-29 18:56

    Great book. No wonder it won a Pulitzer Prize. White outlines the unmitigated amount of effort, drive and ambition it took for JFK to become President of the US in 1960 and the years of planning required. White also describes the gruelling and exhausting nature of the campaign both physically and mentally for both candidates and their families and close supporters. (Kennedy ran against Richard Nixon and White spent months and months accompanying both candidates during the lead up to the election in order to be able to write the book.) Reading some of the speeches JFK made at the time and the sentiments he expressed with such eloquence and charm almost makes you want to cry when you compare it to the 2016 US election campaign.White has passed away but there is a book entitled The Making of the President 2016 in the tradition of Theodore White by Roger Stone that I might try reading although Roger Stone is described as being a longtime political adviser and friend of Donald Trump, so maybe not, but then again it might be interesting….but I doubt that Stone tried as hard to be an impartial observer as White obviously did.

  • Doreen Petersen
    2019-11-26 22:56

    Very informative book. I really liked it.

  • Buck Jones
    2019-12-09 20:08

    This is the classic, original political reporting of a Presidential campaign. What is telling about this book, is that in the era when it was written, political reporters didn't really do too much reporting on the private lives of the candidates. Also, Teddy White had a biased view of the Kennedy's - he was treated with an insider view of the campaign because he was essentially an insider, co-opted by the candidate early on. As a result, this reads a bit dull, although I learned a bit about some of the other contenders for the Democratic nomination, as well as some of the intrigue going into the Democratic convention in Los Angeles. But the reporting is blood-less, there is no real vibrancy or fire in the telling ... which is a shame, because this was an amazing election, full of treachery (Joe Kennedy and the bosses pulling all of the stops out to make sure that Illinois squeaked into the Kennedy column come election night, for example; or LBJ's shenanigans to assure that Texas squeaked into victory as well ... non of that is told). But it is a classic, and spawned the genre that we have today.

  • Richard
    2019-12-17 02:15

    Who says homework isn't fun? This book was required reading for a Political Science course I took in college, when the events recounted in it were only a few years old. Theodore White succeeded in writing the definitive account of the 1960 Presidential campaign as well as establishing a whole genre of political campaign reporting with this book. He had been given complete authorization to travel and report on the doings of the two ex-Navy World War II officers who were first elected to Congress in 1946 and became the Democratic and Republican candidates. Today, books are published every four years by journalists who travel everywhere with Presidential candidates and their staffs while learning political strategies and experiencing daily wins and defeats; all of them can trace their lineage to "The Making of the President 1960". The public had not previously experienced the sort of campaign revelation which this book offered. White capitalized upon its success with similar books in succeeding Presidential campaign years, but the "…President 1960" somehow remains the classic. Perhaps this continuing interest can be traced to the public's never-ending fascination with John F. Kennedy; even White seems to have favored Kennedy over Richard Nixon in his reporting of the campaign. He coincidentally was a classmate of Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., Harvard Class of 1938; Joe, of course, was the Kennedy sibling who was originally groomed by their father to be a future President of the United States. This admiration does not diminish the impact of this book as a masterful contemporary window into the events of a time which has been romanticized as one of America's golden ages. White helped to perpetuate this myth when he described the thousand day Kennedy Presidency as Camelot, in deference to his friend Jackie Kennedy's favorite Broadway show. The ancient kingdom living in "one brief shining moment" as contained in Alan Jay Lerner's lyrics was not replicated in the 1961 to 1963 United States but Theodore White's "The Making of the President 1960" provides a more accurate description of the times than a dozen assassination conspiracy theory books.

  • Jason
    2019-12-04 02:14

    This is the seminal work on the Nixon-Kennedy campaign of 1960. White won the pullitzer prize and went on to create a cottage industry of campaign analysis books. Its interesting to note, that this is the first of these kinds of books. While there have been lots of 3rd party campaign analysis books written since (and a couple about the 1960 election), this niche of prose was pretty empty until this book. The interesting thing about the work is that it is written in a third-person, narrative style -- mostly. But then, White is a reporter for Harpers. He really is involved in little conversations that move him from an chronicler of history to a participant. In that sense, its a bit like reading Churchill's history of the Second World War. White also provides us what has become the iconic sense of these two men in this campaign. Kennedy: young, smart, ambitious, confident and charming. You can almost sense the author, as a reporter, gravitating to Kennedy. On the other hand you have Nixon: sullen, secretive, envious and disparing. The amazing thing is that White did not know how spot on he nailed it. We would see these two personalities play out through the 60s and the stereotypes he describes, continue echo beyond the campaign. The other amazing bit about this work is how he sees the shifts in the electorate. He anticipates the Republican's Southern strategy in light of Eisenhower's popularity, and Nixon's nascent strength during the 1960 campaign. He also speculates about the future of black America. Here he gets it wrong. He assumes that surging incarceration rates of African Americans in the North is similar to similar patters by earlier immigrant groups in the North -- Italians and Irish for instance. Sadly, this evolving pattern reflected something new, much more permanent But, none of that was yet understood in 1960. His analysis of the American electorate of 1960 is particularly fascinating. The ethnic makeup of the white vote makes an interesting read. Today, its seems to be viewed much more monolithically. In any case, if you have any interest in Kennedy, Nixon, elections or politically history, this is a book to read.

  • Doug
    2019-11-26 00:12

    I read this book some 12 years ago and count it as my all time favorite non-fiction book. Because 2008 has already shaped up to be the most exciting Presidential race in a century, I plan to dust off this classic and read it again.I read this book in high school and loved Theodore H. White's tough-guy/salty journalist take on the great figures of his day. Some of his descriptions of John and Bobby Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and the Kennedy Brain Trust are still vivid in my mind.Some of the wisdom I remember (hopefully with some accuracy):-If you have huge crowds showing up to see you, it does not mean you are going to win. But if no one shows up, it does mean you are going to lose. (I would like to add, where local campaigns are concerned, that goes for yard signs too!)-Bobby Kennedy said when they got home from World War II the young veterans shook up the political world and the political parties because they knew how to get things done. He said that the old guys just didn't know how to quickly get things done, but the young guys had learned how during the war.-Dick Nixon liked John Kennedy but Kennedy didn't like Nixon. Kennedy had an amazing rapport with the reporters (like McCain today) and they all loved to than out with Kennedy, who was like the "cool guy."It has been a decade since I read this book, but it changed the way I view people and describe them. I think physical descriptions are in important part of people's personality--something that White captures. This book is also important in understanding how we got to the primary system of today.

  • Robert
    2019-12-06 00:15

    Wow.What a gripping history of a presidential campaign, and of an era.The book was written in 1961, when the Kennedy vs. Nixon election was still very recent memory. It was written by a political reporter who covered both campaigns. Because of this, you get a lot of behind-the-scenes explanation of strategy, of the personalities involved, and of the U.S. as a whole at the end of the 1950s.Eisenhower was just wrapping up 8 popular years as President. Dick Nixon (the Vice President) was considered the front-runner to replace him. The country was prosperous but worried about the Soviet Union and the future. Demographics were changing, the makeup of the country was changing, and nobody was certain if a Catholic could even be elected.The thing I enjoyed most, I think, is that the book was written before a lot of really important events. President Kennedy hadn't been assassinated. Richard Nixon had never been president, nor had he resigned in disgrace. As a result, the events are very much in-the-moment, and you get to know the candidates as they seemed during the election. Nixon seems a bit distrustful of people (hoo-boy!), but generally comes across as a good guy who's able to connect with small-town America. Kennedy is charming and brilliant and has an amazing knowledge of people, places, and politics.I'm looking forward to the other 3 books in the series.

  • Ben
    2019-11-25 02:19

    The original "Game Change", almost a half century before the colorful McCain/Palin/Obama/Clinton campaign. This book is a must for political junkies. Like 2008's Game Change, this book was written shortly after the 1960 election and includes extensive insights from embedded journalists. You step into the inner campaign sanctums of JFK and Nixon, journey with them around the country, watch the strategies unfold, hear the strain in their weary voices, and wait on tenterhooks for each electoral vote to come in.Also, White puts the election in its proper context. It wasn't just about JFK vs. Nixon. It was about the changing demographics of the country, the changing ways people voted and the reasons why. It was about a half dozen other viable candidates who have been largely forgotten by history - the liberal lion Hubert Humphrey, the professorial Stuart Symington, the perennial also-ran Adlai Stevenson, the hawk who bucked his own party Nelson Rockefeller. I was just as fascinated about their stories as the main two candidates, moreso, because they were fresh and unfamiliar.

  • Hasan
    2019-12-02 00:10

    I decided to read this book because of it's very high average review rating. I thought it would be the equivalent of Halperin and Heilemann's Game Change, that would it be fast moving and would cover a lot of ground. I was wrong on all counts. It was full of needless information and description, barely moved at all and didn't provide me with a whole lot of new information. A 200 page book would've been a lot more interesting.

  • Richard
    2019-12-08 02:11

    This book was apparently fascinating when it was written in 1961, and is still fascinating now, but for somewhat different reasons. It's like opening a time capsule regarding the 1960 election and seeing how things have changed in so many ways. One example: Hubert Humphrey was the first candidate to enter the race, and he didn't do so until as late as December 30, 1959! Today, anyone waiting until just over ten months before Election Day would be hopelessly far behind.

  • Thomas D Sinex
    2019-11-25 01:07

    Looked forward to reading this for years and was so disappointed by the extremely biased tone and outlook of the author. Apparently a certain portion of the press was so blinded by their idolatry of JFK that nothing negative or even human could be written about him...

  • Kid
    2019-11-27 19:05

    interesting subject matter, but ultimately unreadable. At times painful to plough through another 10 pages of names and their duties.

  • Kevin
    2019-11-29 20:49

    It’s said by some that journalism is the first draft of history. The concept deserves a lot of credit, with the caveat that journalism inherently lacks the perspective, essential to much great history, that is lent by the passage of time. The equation of journalism and history is now even more complicated by the vast complexity of modern news sources and the instantaneous manner in which events and images are presented to us by social media. These phenomena give information the quality of gossip and the consumer increasingly has to find perspective in a combination of their own judgement, their peers’ opinions and values, and news sources that are often deliberately biased. Journalism now appears to be something like the voluminous, in-the-moment, vaguely coherent scribblings of something that might someday help construct history. Or it might just be trash – fake news, a thing that is harmful both because it is very real and because it is a label that can be easily stuck to legitimate news.White’s "The Making Of The President: 1960" is probably as good a ground as any on which to explore the difficult idea of journalism being the first draft of history. First of all, White, a journalist by trade, is fair but does not make the attempt at unbiased reporting that one might expect from a newspaper article. This is mostly both excusable and unavoidable from someone writing a roughly 380-page book from a perspective that is often firsthand. White is a Kennedy man. He’s quite transparent in this, which puts the reader on solid ground to judge his work as it progresses and puts later historians in good stead when trying to fit the work into a perspective frame. The book mixes a lot of techniques and varying narrative distances in a way that avoids being jarring but is also not by any means seamless. At times, it seems that White is writing in a style that prefigures New Journalism: he is in the story at the moment and places himself with the primary figures in the picture he creates. At other times he is necessarily more distant, providing background and facts to the action of campaigns, but still maintaining his distinct voice. Frustratingly, he is at times both present and not present. An example is a candid, ambling conversation he relates Kennedy having with his press team and staffers on his plane. White doesn’t really relate the conversation but rather gives us the minutes of it, mixed with some scene-building and vivid impressions of the candidate’s demeanor. This is where the book disappoints; one is left feeling that the author would have been better off more briefly sketching Kennedy’s personality while leaving out the synopsis points that just tantalize the reader without delivering substance. It’s a dynamic that appears elsewhere in the book, on both sides of the campaign trail. Chapter 8 (given the overly whimsical title "Retrospect On Yesterday’s Future") is where journalism and history truly meet. White is on good footing when he describes the recent past and the conditions that surround the 1960 election. He gives crucial social perspective for understanding the issues that the candidates confronted. He begins to go off course, though, when he tries too hard at playing historian, reaching back to the distant past to imply that certain historical processes and structures are closely tied to contemporary events. Whether or not he is right, he provides meager causal links to support his arguments. In other parts of the book, White tends to relate events that he heard second-hand, making the work feel like the earliest forms of history, Herodotus and Thucydides. It should not be understated how well the author provides perspective for events that were happening as he wrote about them. But the book is often at its best in its immediacy. White was not a historian and he knew this. On page 172, he states, “History is always best written generations after the event, when cloud, fact and memory have all fused into what can be accepted as truth, whether it be so or not.” The fact that he’s not a historian is well evidenced by this problematic definition of history. Though the irony of the statement is greatly compounded by the amount of confusion that modern media provides, it was still true in White’s day that the proximity of events can often cloud their significance just as much as the passage of time. It’s more a question of what information from a given moment is most useful rather than whether or not contemporary reportage or history is more or less true. At the end of the book, White gives much of the reason for Kennedy’s victory over to the idea that, in the absence of a pressing national crisis, Kennedy was able to locate a vague foreboding in the heart of the American electorate and use that to justify the need for a change in presidential party makeup. As White states it, the year before 1960 had seen the slackening of US economic vigor and the shooting down of one of our U2s over the Soviet Union, but the people at large were still basking in the waning era of good feelings of the Eisenhower administration. Previous party changes in the presidency had come when America had to pull itself out of economic despair (Roosevelt) and when we wanted to extricate ourselves from the Korean conflict (Eisenhower). Without such a crisis, so the argument goes, Kennedy had not only to provide answers for the American people, but also had to create the questions. If this is true – and later shifts in the presidency would suggest that it is – then White succeeded, perhaps inadvertently, in identifying a central flaw in electoral politics. There’s no doubt that times of crisis happen and that people have to be held accountable, but it’s no credit to Kennedy or any president if the office has to be gained by the concoction of false crisis, only to be followed by the new president’s formulation of policy on the grounds that such crises actually exist. In Kennedy’s time, this may have been a factor that led us to deeper involvement in the avoidable Vietnam War. In our time, it has led to the election of a uniquely unqualified man, based on his ability to convince people of economic, immigration, and leadership crises that are mostly imaginary.

  • Josh
    2019-12-04 01:53

    The Making of the President 1960 is a book that stands out from the crowd. In this book, White takes a deep and insightful look not just into the story of the election of 1960, but into the very nature and spirit of the American election process. His sweeping tale encompasses all the elements any good book should, complete with rich background information and a vivid cast of characters. I think this book is best at weaving a narrative that shows not just the events of the campaign but creates a vivid background which would allow even the most novice student of politics to understand the political climate and attitude of the 1960 election. I find that this book creates a great narrative that is not only informative but also fast paced and entertaining.

  • David
    2019-11-15 21:53

    This is a terrific book written before the Kennedy assassination about the 1960 election and the early-part of the Kennedy administration. It's both a character study of Kennedy and Nixon and a wide-ranging commentary on the problems and demography of the country at the time.It's tempting to say "the more things change, the more things stay the same," but it's also incredible to note some of the easy bias that dominated only 52 years ago, and the occasionally charming chauvinism with which it's reported. White sounds like an old-time reporter and some of his American stories sound scotch-drenched ("and by October everyone is drinking before lunch"), but he also has a strained optimism about the country that feels familiar today--he's able to read potential and peril together in the same incident.Great insight about: Wisconsin, West Virginia (99, 100 , 106, 111, 114), Massachusetts (343), Connecticut (341), California: "And it is in this culture of Southern California, where the synthetic and the genuine, the exquisitely beautiful and the grotesquely ugly, mingle without distinction that Nixon grew to manhood searching for identity" (66).Excellent insider take on a convention and on Adlai Stevenson (119, 168), the man who lost in 1952 and 1956 and seemed, even though he didn't actively campaign for it, like he might be about to get another chance in 1960 (this clearly could not happen now)."If this happy and placid man gave political calculators an impression of total schizophrenia, the reason was a simple on--Adlai Stevenson was and, I believe, remains torn in attitude to the two great systems of power that mesh in the unity of the American Presidency. Stevenson's attitude to public affairs approaches a nobility rarely encountered in the political system of any country; but his attitude to politics--the grubby, rooty politics of noise and deals and cruelties and chicaneries--is one of contempt. Yet public affairs and politics are linked as are love and sex. Stevenson's attitude to politics has always seemed that of a man who believes love is the most ennobling of human emotions while the mechanics of sex are dirty and squalid" (47).Early pages devoted to Hubert H. Humphrey easily elevate him to the top echelon of my favorite politicians (though I claim deep ignorance about 1968 and its embroilings): "We passed a shopping center; and he hated it, and the facts tumbled out. . .We believe liberalism is more than intellectual capacity--intellectual liberalism must be buttressed with an understanding of people and a love of them that goes far beyond texts or documents. For if you can't cry a little bit in politics, the only other thing you'll have is hate" (89)."To be a leader means a willingness to risk--and a willingness to love. Has the leader given you something directly from his heart?--or has it all been planned in advance, all been scheduled? Is it efficient? If you want efficiency in politics, you can go to the communists or totalitarins. I believe politics is simply to deal with people and to be human. Every now and then I read in the paper how disordely Hubert Humphrey's campaign is and I say, 'Thank God'" (90).Notes for me (could be interesting for review readers):"There is a tradition profile. . ." (a few paragraphs on how election night unfolds) (9).See "What It Takes" (33).Fair on Republicans and Nixon with a 5 to 15 per cent lean left: "Within the Republican Party are combined a stream of the loftiest of American idealism and a stream of the coarsest American greed" (59)."Now that the democrats have captured the liberal imagination of the nation, it is forgotten how much of the architecture of America's liberal society was drafted by Republicans. . ." (60).76: Rockefeller.78: Primaries.86: Kennedy optimism, Wisconsin.126: Newton Minow, dramatic monologue? TV Wasteland?128: Good Stuart Symington speech rejoinder to Cantor (see also 215; Cantor must be rebutted!)132: Johnson.149: Kennedy danger. 347. 372.151: Girls.204: Nixon and beginnings of Southern Strategy211: "With the end of the nominating process, American politics leaves logic behind" (211).212: Past v. future.220: "Was the private good always the public good? Were two women, meeting at the meat counter of the supermarket and passing up the chuck roast for the sirloin cut, really more interested in the quality of the marbled meat than in the quality o the schools whose overcrowding they grumbled about?" (220)."What price good schools, good medicine, good roads, new bridges--at what sacrifice of good meats, louvered windows, new cars, new appliances?" (220).230-236: race244: "To chronicle these months is like packaging fog" (244). Also 252.TV: 280.284: cleverness. 298. 326, 327.Issuelessness: 291."There is a politician's rule of thumb, particularly hallowed by Democratic politicans, that no election campaign starts until the World Series is over" (294).Pure 60s: 311.Nixon ironies: 314. "His campaign had been based on home talk. But he had no real home except where his wife was; he was a stranger, even here in California, seeking home and friendship" (318).MLK: 322Conservative opinion: 329Crowds: 330malaise: 359Party differences: 361, 362 "The Republican philosophy is entirely different, clearer in metaphysical terms yet murkier in political expression" (362).Vietnam precursor: 375American Identity: 377

  • Nancy Jurss
    2019-11-19 22:08

    Read this for a book discussion. White wrote this after the election and before Kennedy's assassination so it is interesting to read from that aspect. He also has interesting insights into Nixon's behavior that make his subsequent election and the Watergate scandal understandable. This was a time when primaries were not as prevalent in each state and much of the nomination process was done by the party heavyweights inside each state. A long read but worth if for the understanding of history.

  • Joy
    2019-12-11 23:17

    A mix of the personalities and statistics which determined the election of Kennedy over Nixon. Theodore White traveled with the campaigns of both candidates and won the Pulitzer Prize with his insightful, readable analysis.Read 4 times

  • Tony
    2019-12-13 18:53

    Presidential Races Want to know the process by which we Americans, for better or worse, choose our leaders then read this book. Very relevant for our times.

  • Robert
    2019-11-24 18:18

    A good book, but very much a product of its time (especially in its discussion of "the Negro issue" and its desire for balance between two extremes as it saw it). It's a very West Wing view of politics, with frequent declarations of wonders and praise for the political system. There's also almost no discussion of any issues or policies.

  • Heath
    2019-12-06 19:49

    The best book about presidential campaign politics I've ever read. White meticulously dissects all of the factors that make a president - demographic shifts, the state of the economy, current foreign affairs - and provides the definitive account of how John F. Kennedy became America's 35th. A particularly sobering read during our current political cycle.

  • Ramsey
    2019-11-19 22:07

    p. 292-293 "If, them, the TV debates did little to advance the reasonable disucssion of issues that is the dream of unblooded political scientists, what did they do? what they did best was to give the voters of a great democracy a living portrait of the two men under stress and let the voters decide, by instinct and emotion, which style and pattern of behavior under stress they preferred in their leader.The political roots of this tribal sense of the whole go as far back as the ROman Senate, or the beer-blown assemblies of the teutonic tribes that Tacitus describes in his chronicles. This sense of personal choice of leader has been missing for centuries from modern civlizationor else limited to such conclaves of deputized spokesmen of the whole as a meeting of Tammany Hall captains, a gathering of Communist barons in the Kremlin or the dinners of leaders of the English Establishment in the clubs of London. What the TTV debates did was to generalize this tribal sense of participation, this emotional judgement of the leader, from the few to the multitude-for the salient fact of the great TV debates is not what the two candidates said, nor how they behaved, but how many of the candidates' fellow Americans gave up their evening hours to ponder the choice between the two."pp= 329" audiences love to participate"p.340"Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936, accepting his second Presidential nomination, said, 'Governments can err, Presidents do make mistakes, but the immortal Dante tells us that Divine Justice weighs the sins of the cold-blooded and the sings of the warm-hearted on a different scale. Better the occasional faults of a government living in the spirit of charity, than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.'"p. 344 " 'You know,' said Donahue, 'they can't understand this. They think he has a trick. They're listening to him because they think if they learn the trick they can be President, too."p. 364 "no President can turn to the outer world and exercise the power of America abroad unless he is instinctively sure that at home he understands and can call on the full internal political loyalty of the AMerican people. Franklin D. Roosevelt, more than any other President, could exert America's influence on the great outer world because he knew how to mobilize the internal politics of America to support America's purpose. Woodrow Wilson, by contrast, whose perception of foreign affairs was as fine as Adlai Stevenson's, failed in the end to make lasting peace because he could not cause the American political system to follow him... At every time, in every place, those who understood their country's problems best at home could exercise their country's power best abroad--a rule that runs in time from Caesar to Clemenceau and in geography from Churchill to Mao Tze-tung."p. 370 "In other systems it is not so; and one need only examine the performance of the great executives in other times and other places to see how forbiddingly complicated is the job of the American Presidency... This art of persuastion is politics- yet entirely different from the kind of politics that brings a man to the White House."p. 372-- telephone=symbol of presidential power in modern world.p. 376 "why had Nixon, whom he knew as a forthright, cogent speaker in private, talked that way to the American people in the election? He said he had been browsing recently through a collection of Nixon's campaign speeches and the style appaled him. Why had Nixon talked down to the people? A man running for the Presidency must talk up, way up there."p. 377-378" It was a year above all in which Americans were concerned with their identity... But America is a nation created by all the hopeful wanderers of Europe, not out of geography and genetics, but out of purpose-by what men sought in fair government and equal opportunity. If other nations falter in greatness, their people remain still what they were. But if America falters in greatness and purpose, then Americans are nothing but the offscourings and hungry of other lands"p.382(last paragraph) "For if it is true that history is moved on by remorseless forces greater than any man, it is nonetheless true that individual men by individual decision can channel, or deftly guide, those impersonal forces either for the good or to disastrous collision...He had always acted as if men were masters of forces, as if all things were possible for men determined in purpose and clear in thought-even the Presidency.

  • MisterFweem
    2019-12-07 21:15

    Review is here:'s worth the read, even though it's for an election decades old. History repeats itself, they say, but even moreso in politics.

  • Tom Schulte
    2019-12-16 22:54

    Really a dense and dry, textbook-like read full of an orgy of statistics, personages and granular facts, there is still much enlightenment in the reading. For some reason I previously though of the Kennedy election as a landslide referendum on a fading conservative America at the threshold of the progressive, liberal 60s. This book paints a much more complex picture where the election, on the popular and thus fundamental scale, was a squeaker in Kennedy’s favor. (“…this margin of popular vote is so thin as to be, in all reality, nonexistent. If only 4500 voters in Illinois and 28000 voters in Texas changed their minds, the sum of their 32000 votes would have moved both these states, with their combined fifty-one electoral votes, into the Nixon column...The election of 1960 can, if one wills, be seen as an interlocking set of ifs...")This seems to have more to do with Nixon’s sabotaging his own chances (dropping the ball during MLK’s arrest, rudely ignoring his own advisors, refusing to engage Eisenhower for support, etc.) than any Kennedy or Democratic Party destiny. Among the wisdom in this book written by a very able political observer who was embedded with Humphrey, etc. is nuggets such as Adlai Stevenson’s observation on American: “We're a self-indulgent consumption society, and our standards have been so terribly tarnished around the world.” Also, the author’s own observation that “Though Republican politicians use the same public phrases and private techniques as their Democratic rivals, the two great parties operate in different world of reality. Seizure of power on the Republican side is so different from seizure of power on the Democratic side that it sometimes seems that the fauna who contend in these separate jungles come of different orders of political zoology. For despite the cynic's dictum that the national parties of Americans offer only the choice between Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the Republican Party is completely different from the Democratic Party […] But one cannot begin to describe Republican reality, as the Party leadership approached 1960, without exploring that spectacular Republican schizophrenia which for a century has baffled all observers.The Republican Party, to be exact, is twins and has been twins from the moment of its birth—but the twins who inhabit its name and shelter and Jacob and Esau: fratricidal, not fraternal, twins. Within the Republican Party are combined a stream of the loftiest American idealism and a stream of the coarsest American greed.”It also seems to me that the author could make a case from his knowledge that later punk rock pogoing is derivative of street-side Kennedy fanatics: “The jumpers were, in the beginning, teenage girls who would bounce, jounce and jump as the cavalcade passed, squealing, “I seen him, I seen him.” Gradually over the days their jumping seemed to grow more rhythmic, giving a jack-in-the-box effect of ups and downs in a thoroughly sexy oscillation.”What really makes the book worth reading and keeping in print a half-century after its events is such insight into the American soul that take my breath away, like “If other nations falter in greatness, their people remain still what they were. But if America falters in greatness and purpose, then Americans are nothing but the offscourings and hungry of other lands.”